INTO Slams European Judgement but Won’t Be Stopped in Pursuit of Pay Equality

70 per cent of teaching entrants affected by reduced salaries under 25 years of age at time of entry to the profession.

INTO supported Tomás Horgan and Claire Keegan in their claim before the European Court of Justice seeking redress, on age discrimination grounds, against the unilateral decision of the government to cut new entrant pay. Questions were referred to the ECJ from the Irish Labour Court, following previous hearings.

The claim to the Labour Court is that the 10 per cent salary cut and scale reversion imposed on new entrant teachers such as the Claimants from January 2011 represents indirect discrimination on age grounds.

The State’s own statistics show that well over 70 per cent of new entrants to primary teaching in 2011 were 25 years of age or under. To impose a salary cut on these entrants means in reality that younger teachers were paid less at start of career than older teachers had been, a disadvantage which persists across the career resulting in a substantial differential in career earnings.

The response of the European Court (ECJ) to the questions posed to it by the Irish Labour Court is a bitter disappointment. The Court chose not to even take the time to hold an oral hearing where Tomás and Claire could have set out their specific case. Such an opportunity would have enabled them to counter the concerns expressed in the judgement and speak to the merits of this particular age discrimination case. The case returns to the Labour Court where the Claimants, supported by INTO, will reply in detail to the ECJ responses and will ask the Labour Court to find that what looks on its face like age-linked discrimination is exactly that.

INTO President Joe Killeen, who was in attendance as the verdict was delivered in Luxembourg, said “I commend both Tomás and Claire and the great service they have done for their fellow teachers in standing up for equal pay for equal work. This case is just one strand, albeit an important one, of our consistent opposition to the cuts imposed on new entrants. Whether through negotiation, court challenge or industrial action, INTO will stand with our members until the blot of inequality is obliterated.”